Are We Close to a Tipping Point on Guns?

This is in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The big-box giant says it will stop selling handguns and ammunition for military-style weapons, and will discourage open-carry of guns in stores. It’s also calling on Congress for stronger gun safety measures.

To put it mildly, Walmart isn’t generally considered a socially progressive corporation. Which is what gives this announcement a certain Nixon-to-China credibility. If even Walmart, that defining icon of rural middle America, is standing up to the National Rifle Association and saying enough is enough, then the company has determined that, to a big portion of its customers — meaning, a big portion of America — enough is, indeed, enough.

The NRA took great umbrage at Walmart’s decision and fired a barrage of condemnation at Walmart that the Post-Dispatch writer, Kevin McDermott, takes apart. Very basically, McDermott points out that Walmart wouldn’t have made this decision out of the goodness of its heart or if there were any chance it would drive its blue-collar, largely small-town customers away. They are looking out for Walmart. And they have decided this is what the blue-collar, largely small-town customers want.

And we may have Dmitriy Andreychenko to thank for this. You might remember that Andreychenko is the nitwit gun rights activist who walked into a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri, wearing full body armor and carrying a semiautomatic rifle, triggering a stampede out of the store. A few days later a couple of men entered a Walmart in Kansas City with handguns stuck in their waistbands, causing another customer stampede. In that case, the police decided the men were not breaking any laws and let them go. Missouri firearm laws are extremely lenient. Andreychenko, on the other hand, was engaged in theater and attempting to be provocative, and he was charged with a felony.

But the larger point is that Walmart, apparently, noticed that most shoppers are not at all comfortable around armed men they don’t know and has decided that the Second Amendment open carry wackjobs activists need to take the performance elsewhere.

The open carry of firearms is primarily performance. Whether the performer’s goal is to dramatize extreme gun rights, intimidate others, trigger the libs or cast oneself as the avenging hero in a miniseries of the mind, the practice is not just an assault on public safety. It’s a theater of the absurd.

There is no evidence that open carry makes any corner of society safer. There is, on the contrary, impressive evidence that carrying firearms increases aggression and gun violence. Open carry forces people in public thoroughfares to evaluate the mental state, physical demeanor and emotional intent of every armed person they see. How exactly does one differentiate open carry from homicidal carry?

This is not to say that there aren’t plenty of politicians who still are puppets of the NRA. Here in Missouri there is much anguish over the homicide rate in St. Louis, which until recently was the highest in the nation. This year the honor shifted across the river to East St. Louis, Illinois. The Post-Dispatch maintains a handy-dandy homicide map so you can see where the carnage is going on; the red dots, showing firearm deaths, dominate. There have been more than a dozen murders of children in drive-by shootings since April.

Per state law that went into effect in January 2017, Missouri residents can carry any damnfool firearm they want, concealed or openly, without a permit. Since that time firearm violence in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas has gotten worse. This is from a couple of weeks ago:

From huge rewards to calls for allowing Missouri cities to enact their own gun laws, leaders in St. Louis and Kansas City are grappling with a troubling rise in shooting deaths, especially those involving children.

This past weekend was especially violent. In Kansas City, four men were killed Sunday, including two in a drive-by shooting in a popular entertainment district. In St. Louis, six people were killed in shootings, including 8-year-old and 10-year-old girls and a 15-year-old boy.

Many of the victims of violence in the state’s two largest cities are black, and black Missouri lawmakers are asking Republican Gov. Mike Parson to allow the House and Senate to consider during a special session next month legislation that would let cities adopt their own gun control measures. In a letter dated Saturday, state Rep. Steven Roberts Jr. a St. Louis Democrat who chairs the 19-member Missouri Black Caucus, told Parson that local leaders need the autonomy to act as they see fit on “this pressing crisis.”

However, the state’s Republican troglodyte governor, Mike Parsons, refuses to consider allowing the cities to write their own gun control laws or to work with the legislature to change the state’s absurdly lenient laws.

These are violent times, even by St. Louis standards, with more than 130 homicides so far this year — mostly shooting deaths — a spike of almost two dozen from this time last year. Thirteen victims under 18 have died by firearms this year.

There’s no single cause of all this mayhem, but one issue is hard to ignore as a likely contributor: the Republican-controlled Legislature has, for years, been on a gun deregulation binge that has given the state one of the loosest sets of firearms laws in the country. Today, the state doesn’t require a background check when someone buys a gun from a private seller, doesn’t require a permit to carry that gun and doesn’t allow local jurisdictions like St. Louis to impose their own stronger rules.

The upshot is, a dangerous felon who isn’t legally allowed to have a gun can, in practice, easily buy one from any private dealer in Missouri and carry it around in public, with minimal legal mechanisms for police or anyone else to stop him before violence erupts. And we wonder why St. Louis can’t get these shootings under control?

But most of the teevee news watched in the small towns come out of St. Louis or Kansas City, or probably Springfield in the middle of the state, so everybody is getting inundated with the almost daily stories of gun deaths. This includes the children, some of them killed as they played outside their own homes. People who were fine with guns a few years ago may be getting sick of them now.

In an era of mass shootings, not knowing whether the armed individual next to you is a “law-abiding citizen” or an internet-addled murderer is its own kind of trauma. (And indeed, as the Trace has noted, at least two public shootings in open-carry states have been committed by individuals who’d been brought to the attention of police before they started firing but hadn’t been arrested because, until they started shooting, they hadn’t been doing anything illegal.) The Resurgent, a conservative site that revolves around the work of gun-happy right-wing pundit Erick Erickson, wrote this week that “If the pro-gun community doesn’t take some action to rein in people like Dmitriy Andreychenko, the right to carry a gun could be easily lost.”

In other words, even a few of the gun nuts are starting to realize that “open carry everywhere” could backfire on them.

Please also read “On Giving Up” by Alexandra Petri.

8 thoughts on “Are We Close to a Tipping Point on Guns?

  1. In an era of mass shootings, not knowing whether the armed individual next to you is a “law-abiding citizen” or an internet-addled murderer is its own kind of trauma.

    Well, whether they are law abiding or not, you can know with a high degree of certainty that if they are toting an AR-15 that something definitely ain't right in their head.

  2. It probably doesn't help the populace of Missouri that KY3, the most popular and (until recently) best news broadcast in Springfield, was purchased by Gray Broadcasting, which proceeded to lay off a huge chunk of the staff and then go full-on wingnut/"if it bleeds it leads". KY3 used to be an operation to be proud of; now it plays like a bad parody of TV news.

  3. I'd like to think we are at a tipping point, but I doubt there will be any significant movement in eliminating the monster created by gun worshipers and the delusional uber patriots. If Sandy Hook didn't strike a chord in the hearts and minds legislators to act, then nothing will.

    The NRA still holds a lot of power in their ability to confuse and conflate an issue, and they still have a firm financial grip on the GOP.

     I think back when it was black gang bangers with their MAC 10's and UZI's that prompted swift action for an assault weapons ban, but when it's MAGA hat wearing white supremacists with AR-15's and AK 47's, all of a sudden it's offensive to the 2nd amendment.

  4. Do we need a constitutional amendment regarding our right to safety from weapons? Then at least we might get a balance, a harmony that might lead to resolution.  Walmart knows it has a responsibility for a safe place for it's workers and it's customers.  A store with people openly carrying weapons is not a safe place for it's workers and it's customers. It violates the balance of a persons right to be safe from weapons.   We do fortunately have a right to be safe from hand grenades, but only because owning them and openly carrying them is illegal.  How much difference is there really?  Why would you feel much safer in a Walmart if you saw a customer carrying an AR-15 or an AK-47 with spare magazines, than one carrying a belt with a couple of hand grenades clipped on it?  That we might puzzle a bit trying to come up with a rational explanation of why one is legal and the other is not says much.   In my judgement, the sight of either, would infringe on my right to be safe from weapons.  Oh, and kids at school need to be safe from weapons too.  Make it part of the constitution and make the courts find a balance.  I would prefer I could trust my fellow Americans to carry none of the above, and use none of them in  mass slaughters of others.  At this point trust of this kind has been repeatedly and egregiously shattered.  Yes, I think both parties and their candidates should wholeheartedly endorse it.  A persons right to be safe from weapons is a most needed amendment.  

    • Well, the Second Amendment does have a subordinate clause about a "well-regulated" militia; but ever since Scalia's judicial activism in "DC vs Heller", that clause is now ignored. So the Second Amendment is now half-repealed, with malign effects self-evident.

      I recommend repairing the Second Amendment, to re-emphasize regulation. Something like:

      "The right of the people to bear arms in a well-regulated militia shall not be infringed."

      This is a single clause, which makes gun control part of the gun right.

      With power comes responsibility. That was the common legal understanding before DC vs Heller.


      • Would that not also take all the effort of adding an amendment?  This is not to in any way contend it is not a good idea.  A constitutional patch for balance could be the way.


        • Perhaps the version I presented could be a law before Congress. And I would dearly love to see the Nihilist Ranters Association challenge it in court.

  5. The post and comments omit the ElPaso WalMart massacre – 22 dead. The shooter was targeting Hispanics. This set the stage for terror in any WalMart over open-carry. The base of WM operations is the poor person doing one-stop bargain buying. The business model is threatened when WM gets the reputation of being a target-rich environment for racist gun nuts. 

    There was a wave of WM incidents developing – they were becoming the go-to place to make a statement about gun rights and poor, non-white people in America. The NRA is reeling from money problems and damage to their reputation. The Russia connection is there, financial misdeeds are there. The purge of non-loyalists by WLP has made the news, including the complaints of 'patriots' like Ollie North.

    Trump is still bowing to the NRA – they got Trump elected last time and Trump hasn't realized the NRA can't deliver this time. (For one thing, the NRA can't accept millions from Russia this time around to funnel into the election.) Putting past sources of money to the NRA under a microscope (House inquiry authority) following the incursion of Marina Butino would be entirely appropriate and legal.

    Yeah – there's a tipping point. Give it one good shove.

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